The other day my 15 year old daughter decided to get back into exercise. She set up the Wii Fit game on our television, stepped on the platform, and was promptly told by her ‘person’: “You have gained 5 pounds, and you haven’t worked out in three months!”
What did she do? She immediately stepped off, and hasn’t gone back to the Wii Fit since.
We joked in the family about how this little ‘person’ (which she had in fact, designed!) had totally psyched her out. I thought to myself: “Do we not have enough of an inner critic when it comes to our body image? Do we really need that outside person; friend, neighbor saying: “Now dear, you really have gained some weight?” Really? Geez, I hadn’t noticed, thanks for the help!”
How you take that criticism, how you handle the accusation, whether it is self directed, or from the outside; how you handle failing or FEELING THAT YOU ARE FAILING, will have a huge impact on your motivation and ability be consistent in your goals. Some people can shrug their shoulders and take self criticism in stride, some people are motivated by harsh self criticism. When the criticism becomes excessive however, often the only response is to for duck and cover: basic avoidance of that critic by shutting down. Usually vis a vis dieting, it goes like this: “I blew it, so I will start again tomorrow. Better not really notice or think about what I am eating now.” Total shut down from that voice that is noticing what you are eating and berating you. All that ‘conscious eating, counting points, calories, carbs whatever, out the window. Anyone out there ever start and then stop a diet? How many times, right?!
I would argue however, that FEELING LIKE YOU ARE FAILING IS NORMAL AND PART OF LIFE. Making mistakes, messing up, not succeeding in exactly the way you had imagined it to be, or had set out is absolutely part and parcel of any effort and achievement.
Okay, I know FAILURE is not exactly a headline grabber, or a word that we like to use. Well, I am here to take “FEELING LIKE A FAILURE” OUT OF THE CLOSET. Again, it is totally normal and you can bet that the person you admire most in the world has felt it too. In fact not just felt it, but achieved it. I would venture to say that most successful people have failed multiple times. The difference is that they keep trying.
Your failures are DATA; this information will help you adapt and modify your efforts. In a word, you will learn what you need to about the situation, about yourself, and how you can make the necessary adjustments to create small successes. This will keep you going.
In the book “Outliers”, Malcolm Gladwell talks about the 10,000 hours; the time it takes to be able to do things well. To succeed. What is barely mentioned however, is how those people who are able to put in those 10,000 hours, cope with the days they feel they have failed. I would put money on the idea that they don’t feel successful every moment of those 10,000 hours, but they are able to handle their failures, their disappointments without abandoning their efforts entirely.
What is talked about in the book is the concept of delayed gratification. We know that in order to do this you have to be motivated to show up and keep working, to get to the gratification piece. That is the key: How do you stay motivated to show up, to keep up your efforts in the face of difficulty, failures, disappointments?
Given that failure is kind of ‘built’ in to a lot of dieting history, plenty of people have lost and gained the same 10 – 20 – 150 pounds over many years, I would venture to say that we are primed to feel like we are failing, the moment things start to go badly. Okay, let’s say it: “fail”.
So how do we keep up the efforts in the face of failure, like those ‘outliers’, to put in those 10,000 hours to ensure success? A lot of how you ‘self- talk’ and respond to your inner critic in the face of failure, will have to do with how you handle a bad day on a diet, and then how you put in the time.
You’ve joined the gym; you’ve even been working out with a trainer, or signed up and started going to those classes. You feel great! You’ve changed some of your eating habits, even started that new diet that everyone’s talking about and it is terrific! You’ve been doing it a month, and you’ve noticed your body changing; you’ve lost 8, maybe even 10 lbs.
Then you notice that the weight isn’t coming off so fast. You have a day when you are desperate to eat without thinking, without measuring, without counting, without being conscious, and boom! There you are. You wake up the next day, feeling like crap.
You say to yourself: “I have totally blown it; I will definitely start my diet tomorrow, but given how much I ate last night, I might as well ‘let go’ today too, and I will definitely re-start tomorrow. Forget the gym today”.
You spend that day eating all the things you don’t let yourself have, and you don’t let yourself notice how full you are, because you know that tomorrow you are back to the regime. What’s another day?
You go back to the gym, and you get on the scale. You of course expect that you’ve gained weight, but the next few days you are ‘good’. But you step on the scale 4 days later, and the weight still hasn’t budged. You’re really getting pissed now, and starting to think that this whole gym thing isn’t working. And this diet is obviously not working either. You feel totally discouraged. Your motivation is down, you feel like a failure, and you again are feeling fat, even though the same weight two weeks ago, felt thin. (In fact, it was thinner than you had been in 5 years!)
This happens to be one of the most common places that people tend to lose their motivation. Their enthusiasm for the diet and exercise wanes as the result doesn’t seem to be coming and what is that word again? “Failure!”
How you self talk in the face of your ‘inner mean girl or guy will have a direct result on your ability to get back to your efforts. If you are brutal to yourself, it is likely that you will totally shut down, and want to avoid this whole thing entirely; face it here you have failed again, just like all those other times!
Some options to consider:
“I needed that time off and I am going to see it as restorative. If I keep this up I am likely to continue losing as I had been doing before.”
“I know I have failed at this a million other times, but I think I need to change my current plan. I can’t get to the gym more than 2 times a week, so I will also walk to work one day.”
“I need to build in more carbs, because I can’t live like this. I know that if I eat the bread I love every day, but don’t overeat it, I can probably balance things.”
Small changes and adapting your goals keeps your motivation up as you achieve them. Always re-evaluate your diet and your fitness program to tweak things to fit your life and help you stay consistent. A few tips:
PREDICT THE PLATEAU:
EXPECT TO ‘POOP OUT’ SOME WEEKS WITH NOT JUST YOUR DIET BUT YOUR ATTEMPTS AT EXERCISE. PREDICT THEM. BUILD THEM IN.
Leave room for days here and there where you feel need to eat more than usual and hang out on the couch. Your body and mind need breaks. Let them energize you; don’t’ use them as an excuse to stop your efforts entirely
PREDICT A DAY OF EATING WHAT YOU HAVEN’T ALLOWED YOURSELF. Particularly if it s food you can’t live without. At least knowing you can have it maybe once a week, will help you from shoving it down your throat, thinking it’s your ‘last supper’ as you make promises to resume your low or no carb diet tomorrow. If limiting this food works for you, great. If it doesn’t, give it to yourself every day and then see if you really want to have it, or have less of it. It is always there tomorrow. Yes, you can lose weight eating the foods you love.
MAKE MODIFICATIONS AND CHANGE YOUR EXPECTATIONS FOR YOURSELF IF YOU ARE FAILING:
Change some of your goals. You might have started off too big and are overwhelmed. Changing the plan to fit you is what is going to help you keep it going. Don’t worry about the endpoint. Small bits really do add up, and again, consistency is key. Your goals will keep adapting as you keep succeeding.
MOST IMPORTANTLY, YOU ARE THE BOSS AND THE EXPERT IN WHAT WILL WORK FOR YOU BECAUSE YOU KNOW YOURSELF AND YOUR LIFE.
Quick story: The other day a friend was telling me how fantastic she has been feeling having cut out all carbs and sugar for a few months. No bloating ever, no weight gain, she feels fantastic! Despite all my anti-diet preaching and beliefs, for a moment I started to think about how maybe I should try this, hey, maybe I wouldn’t wake up feeling bloated, or puffy when I eat whatever these things are that make you puffy and bloated. I have to tell you guys, that no sooner did I even have the THOUGHT to try this, did I find myself stuffing candy and bread down my throat. I was starving! What on earth was this, I was wondering after the second day I was not just failing at cutting out carbs and sugar, but hey, that was all I was eating!!!
I simply had to laugh. I think I was failing this diet big time. And I hadn’t even started. The minute I realized that this was not going to be a good idea for me, I resumed my usual eating, which feels by and large, successful to me. 80/20. It’s good enough.
I will live with my puffy days.